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Minority Republicans achieved some victories on tax relief
The Legislature finally adjourned July 19, over a month after the June 16 deadline in statute, and months after Democrats pretended their work was done in March so that Republicans could be excluded from the traditional, bipartisan budget process.
This is State Representative Jack Ducharme of Madison proudly serving House District 111, Madison, Norridgewock and Solon with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.
When Republicans were included in budget decisions, we were able to advocate to provide tax relief for all Mainer’s, not just special interest groups.
With Republican persistence:
- $150 million in collected tax dollars will be returned to the Maine people
Republicans pushed for $300 million in tax relief, but Appropriation Democrats would not agree to this; instead, a compromise was reached for the $150 million in tax relief for around 500,000 tax filers in the form of $300 checks to be delivered in December.
- Increased the homestead reimbursement rate to municipalities
For years, municipalities have been covering the full cost of the state mandated homestead exemption. Majority Democrats have finally agreed to incrementally increase the rate of reimbursement from 70% to 100% over the next several years, thus additionally supporting tax relief for Mainers.
- Increased the municipal revenue sharing rate, above what was proposed by the Governor.
For years, state government has not met their agreement with municipalities to return 5% of tax revenue back to them. Legislative Republicans pushed to honor the agreement with municipalities and reach the 5%, supporting further tax relief for Mainers.
- Supported a $10,200 state income tax exemption for unemployed Mainers
Given the unprecedented loss of jobs and employers caused by the Governor’s forced shut down of businesses, Republicans supported the idea of holding those people harmless from the income tax because their job status was the direct result of government action.
- Provided tax conformity to prevent federal PPP loans from being taxed
The Governor proposed taxing the businesses that took PPP loans. These loans were used to retain their employees and helped ensure thousands of Mainers were able to keep their job. The Democrats proposal to collect a portion of these loans in taxes was unacceptable to Republicans and was in clear violation of the intent Senator Collins had when she wrote the bill that created the program.
- Replenished recommended levels in the budget stabilization fund
After repeated Republican calls for more money in the state’s reserve fund, that fund now has $492 million set aside in case there is another emergency.
Republicans also stopped progressive policies that targeted farmers, local control of our schools and government overreach.
There were a number of areas where Republicans and Democrats were able to reach agreement for Maine people.
- Investments in health care, mental health and substance abuse
- Expanded broadband access
- Additional money for roads and bridges
- State funding more than 55% of education costs
- Increased funding for nursing Homes and direct care workers
Overall, the partisan tone of this past session increased from previous sessions.
When Democrats realized that any budget deal with Republicans would result in money being returned to Maine citizens, they decided to exclude them.
They achieved this by utilizing a parliamentary tactic based in a false narrative that required pretending the legislature completed its work for the year on March 30. They then called a special session, worked over a month past the statutory June 16 adjournment date and carried over hundreds of bills for consideration in the next session meant to deal with emergency pieces of legislation.
Rather than return tax dollars to the Maine people and acknowledge that people are receiving more of their own money back, Democrats are calling the Republican tax relief checks “Covid Disaster Relief Payments.” Let’s be clear, this is not borrowed money. This is returning your money to you, rather than allowing government to spend it on new ongoing programs.
Without Republican support, legislation also passed the legislature to reduce thresholds for trafficking narcotics and methamphetamines and penalties for the possession of those same drugs.
Maine families will pay an estimated $39 to $52 more a month on consumer goods because of a new state package recycling law. Consumers are already paying more at grocery stores because the legislature eliminated plastic bags.
Regarding the state budget, it has increased to $8.5 billion dollars after increasing 11% during Governor Mills first two years in office.
Without Republican resistance over the last three years, it would be well north of $9 billion by now.
The growth of government these past three years is alarming and, if unchecked, will restrain future economic growth.
Republican efforts did reduce the potential future tax burden by nearly $300 million dollars, but the growth of government will also mean that people have less money to spend.
More troubling than the level of partisanship this session was national agenda-driven tone of some of our debates.
Some of the Legislature’s newest members seem to believe that institutional racism is Maine’s biggest problem.
There was less respect this session for Maine laws and members of our law enforcement community.
There were also attacks on the men and women putting food on our tables, Maine farmers, with some members of the Legislature labeling farming as being based in racism.
Despite the current political climate, Republicans were able to achieve some victories, but in order for us to turn things around, continued public awareness and involvement is needed.
Republicans are working to support all Mainers by supporting policies that strengthen Maine’s economy and the ability for them to realize the American Dream.
We do not believe in picking winners and losers or treating others differently according to what group they belong too or identify with. We believe in providing an environment that supports all individuals being able to succeed and achieve their goals. It is our responsibility to ensure that the government is there to assist them but not stand in their way or provide disincentives, so they choose not to thrive on their own or in some other state.
This has been State Representative Jack Ducharme with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.
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